The White House announced today that the war-torn country of Ukraine would soon be receiving non-lethal aid from the United States. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to relay the news. During the phone call, Biden expressed his concern regarding the separatists who are supported by Russia and violating the Minsk cease-fire in Donetsk and Mariupol in pro-Russian Eastern Ukraine. Biden was also concerned about the refusal of the separatists to allow monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe access into the territory.
The Obama administration was not able to provide a full, detailed list of the items to be sent as a condition of anonymity, but did say that the aid will include unarmed Raven drones that can be hand-launched, 30 armored Humvees, over 200 unarmored Humvees, radios, counter-mortar radars, and other military defensive equipment. The total net worth of the aid, without the Humvees, is estimated at about 75 million dollars. The supplies are being funded by the European Reassurance Initiative. Ukraine can expect the armored Humvees within the next few weeks, but will have to wait longer for the rest of the shipment.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee have been pushing President Obama to send lethal aid to the Poroshenko Ukrainians to help them to defend themselves against the Russian-supported rebels. President Obama has managed to resist the pressure, and stated last month, during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that diplomatic efforts need to be given more time to take effect. A White House official echoed the statement today, saying the administration believes “Ukraine has the right to defend itself,” and that there is “no military solution” to the crisis.
However, the Obama administration is still debating whether to send lethal aid to Ukraine, according to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, while speaking before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. She confirmed that President Obama was still waiting to see whether or not the terms of the Minsk cease-fire would be implemented. Nuland also confirmed that Russian tanks, rockets, heavy artillery, and armored vehicles have been delivered to the Ukrainian separatists in the east of the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies all allegations connecting him and Russia to the rebels.
The fighting in Ukraine began last April after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine, however, has been deeply divided between pro-Russian sentiment in the east and anti-Russian sentiment in the west since the end of the Soviet Union in December of 1991. The almost year-long struggle in Ukraine has been a grab for power between those who want new presidential elections, those who want the reinstatement of the country’s former constitution, and the views of the more extremist nationalist Svoboda party, which is primarily focused on a dangerous ethnic cleansing of Ukrainian Jews. To date, the crisis in Ukraine has led to the deaths of over 6,000 people and has forced approximately one million Ukrainians from their homes.
By Danielle Kral
Photo by Joe Crimmings- Flickr License